Jerry-rigging–a family tradition

Owning an ice cream parlor in my early twenties was the beginning of a long career in business.  During times when I was not self-employed, I offered my services as a financial person—usually a Controller, Consultant or CFO.  As such I knew, or was expected to know, how to make businesses work better.  I understood the rules and how not to follow them to achieve results.

What I was not was “handy” as in handyman.  Sure, I did home repairs and fix-ups, but I was not very good at it; I was a jerry-rigger.  My tools of the trade were tape, glue, wire, screws and pooky.  Yes, the oft shamed gooey stuff that could be used to “repair” almost anything.  Now, I believe, there are a lot of other meanings of this non-word.  Some of them are no doubt offensive, I’m not using the word in that manner—it could also be called goop.  So if pooky is offensive, Word keeps correcting it to poky, let’s stick with goop.

Jerry-rigging came to me naturally.  My father was a jerry-rigger.  He could fix anything with wire—his best go-to staple.  My father had some not-very-interesting stories of fixing various cars with wire.  From tires, exhaust pipes to engine problems, wire was the essential ingredient for any by-the-side-of-the-road emergency repairs.  He would often intone philosophically how his father was not a wire man but had been a devotee of rope.  Different time –different forms of transportation.  These musings seem to imply that dad had improved on granddad’s dated methods.  The next generation tops the old folks, once again.

Because of this unspoken family tradition, I own an unusual amount of wire.  I really seldom use the wire (I’m a tape guy), but it gives me a warm feeling to carry on the family tradition.

My older brother was, of course, a jerry-rigger.  He actually turned this skill into an impressive career.  He was one of the very early (1960s) computer programmers.  He actually dealt with wired boards to instruct machines on what to do—more wire.  The early computers were incredibly dumb and opaque.  He had a natural ability (thanks dad!) to work around the machines that mimicked the use of wire and rope to achieve an outcome that did not match the textbook approach; but got results others couldn’t.  He was hailed as a genius, although it was only jerry-rigging like grandpa; only with different kinds of machines.

Now, if you’re a jerry-rigger and a gooper, you can end up with one hell of a mess.  This ugly mess can sometimes be covered up with tape but often even tape won’t help.  At this point the jerry-rigger starts thinking about things to cover the handyman’s completed task, that now looks like crap.  Cardboard is the resource that always comes in handy.  Cardboard, tape maybe a screw or two and viola—it looks brand new.  Maybe a little paint would help?

Today I’m an author.  My dad didn’t write, nor my granddad; they would probably think it was not much like work at all.  Sitting at a desk all day staring off into space cannot be work, can it?  I write fiction, which in itself might be a form of jerry-rigging.  I tell a story that is made up.  If something is not going right in the story, I just change it—apply a little goop; and its all fixed.  Editing is the ultimate goop.  My slip-shod writing is patched up by competent editors—it’s the way of the writing world.  Just get it on paper, and we can fix this mess.

I look out at the mess the world is in and wonder if it is time for a re-write.  Could we do better?  Sure some of the mess would be in the re-write, we still need flawed people or there’s no plot; but maybe a little less flawed.  Maybe we could jerry-rig some of our flawed systems—shouldn’t everyone have the basic minimums in life, food, water, air, health care, shelter?  How do we do that?  Do we want to do that?

It may sound odd but when I was in business and things weren’t going well; I felt great.  Sure, I didn’t want bad outcomes, but I never felt more alive or engaged as when I was trying to fix problems.  Most business activities come down to just that, fixing what is broken.  Sales are slow—get to work on better products, better advertising, better customer service, better………; stop complaining and fix it. 

Maybe we need more wire, pooky, goop, screws, cardboard or whatever, along with a bunch of jerry-riggers so we can get stuff fixed—it’ll be fun.  And, if the results are not perfect, we can cover most mistakes with a good coat of paint.

Thanks for being a reader!

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tedcliftonbooks

Ted Clifton, award winning author, is currently writing in three mystery series—Pacheco & Chino Mystery series, the Muckraker Mystery series and the Vincent Malone series. Clifton’s focus is on strong character development with unusual backdrops. His books take place in Southwest settings with some of his stories happening in the 1960s, 1980s and current times. The settings are places Clifton has lived and knows well, giving great authenticity to his narratives. Clifton has received the IBPA Benjamin Franklin award and the CIPA EVVY award--twice. Ted is also an artist. Much of his work, digital, acrylic and watercolor, has been inspired by living in New Mexico for many years. Today Clifton and his wife reside in Denver, Colorado, with frequent visits to one of their favorite destinations, Santa Fe, New Mexico.

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